Archive for May, 2010

That Special Show

May 5, 2010

I’m going to see ‘The Middle East’ tonight at the Horseshoe Tavern here in Toronto.  I discovered them probably back in February, even blogged about them awhile back.  They’ve since become a SXSW buzz band (translation: they played a big music conference and people liked them) and have been touring the US and occasional dates in Canada.

They are from Queensland, Australia.  Like most of my favourite bands they were 99% unlikely to ever play Toronto.  When I first saw that they were in North America I was shocked.  I was also shocked to see they were playing several dates in the VICINITY of Toronto, but not Toronto itself.  The final shock came when they contacted me through Facebook to say they’d added the date…tonight…at the Horseshoe.

Needless to say, they could PPC&R* tonight and I’d still consider it a special show. By the very nature of the build up to the event I’m more excited to go to this show than I was to see Radiohead, way back in the day, for the OK Computer tour. SACRILEGE!  But true!

Tickets for this show I’m attending tonight.  $13.  My favourite number too!

I’ve seen some special shows in my day, and what I’m wondering is…what makes a show special?  These days it seems a ‘special show’ is one you have to pay $500 to see…at least, that’s what’s happening with the big name acts.  Luckily, for me, none of the big name acts really impress me.

k-os probably did some super special shows last summer, and his shows were Pay What You Can, or Pay What You Think The Musician Deserves.  Like a tip.  Someone who only has a jar of two-cent coins that are no good no more could catch a show like that, and perhaps by that very fact it will be special.

I saw Aimee Mann do an acoustic show during her Forgotten Arm tour, just a few months after she came through town for the show where she treated that same album as the concept it is and told the story before playing album segments.  Both of those shows were special, but something about that acoustic show was…specialer.  It cost about $30.

Way back in 1997 I saw Dar Williams play a show ‘at the waterfront’ in St. Mary’s City, Maryland.  I had only heard one song of hers, ‘The Christians and the Pagans,’ played by the two girls who were lucky enough to open for her that day, just days before at an event at the college I was hanging at.  The show was either free or like $5.  Dar thought ‘The Waterfront’ was a club…but it was a stage on the waterfront.  She had a cold.  She goobered on a sweet girl’s scarf (Dar was cold, AND had a cold), and like everyone her nose ran like a tap. It was one of the most memorable shows I’ll ever see.

But what makes the show special?  Today I heard people talk about the Stanley Cup playoffs.  About the ‘amazing hockey’ being played.  But the games I remember seeing – Stanley Cup, World Series, etc. – always seem to be exactly the same as the regular season games.  The only difference is the stakes.  I could be wrong, but it seems to me that when the stakes are high the game seems more exciting.

So…special is what the fans make of it, I guess.  Maybe because the stakes are high…a band is getting buzz and catching them early seems exciting.  Or because you feel the band is yours…you discovered them, you told people about them, and now you get to see them.  Or perhaps because you’re getting a twist on the normal approach…you saw them play an awesome show, and now they’re back with an orchestra or choir.

But who could know that a show will be special unless you know the fans?

Or maybe you can’t really know a show will be special until after its done.  In hindsight…that Radiohead show was pretty spectacular.

I’ll update from the other side of the Middle East show tomorrow (or, lets say, sometime in the next week).  Maybe I’ll have a whole new perspective on special shows.  Until then…enjoy this definition of PPC&R.

* PPC&R is a term we use at the house when we watch shows like American Idol or, recently, reruns of the X-Factor UK.  It stands for ‘Pee, Poo, Cry and Run,’ essentially what we announce a person will do on stage if they hit a bad note or slip and fall during a stage walk or dance move.  It fills us with joy juice when we consider the possibility of it actually happening.